2020-2021 Nordica Soul Rider

Will Brown:

I’ll start with a bit of a preface, which should serve to communicate some expectations I had before jumping on the Soul Rider. Bear with me….

As Jason mentioned, not all ~98mm underfoot all-mountain skis are created equal, made for the same level of skier, or suit the same riding style (though you might think that by reading a lot of manufacturers’ standard “powder-to-park” product descriptions).

The Soul Rider is a ski I’ve been looking forward to getting on for more than a season now. It’s obviously marketed toward the freestyle all-mountain crowd (like the Moment PB&J and Rossignol Scimitar), but I was still very excited to see where the Soul Rider stands in this “one-ski quiver” sub-genre. The last ski I reviewed in this all-mountain class was the Scimitar. It’s an awesome one-ski quiver that you’ll also want to consider if you’re in the market, and I was especially interested to see how the Soul Rider compared in two specific respects.

I was really impressed with the Scimitar’s versatility as an all-mountain tool. The full reverse camber profile makes for a ski that is incredibly intuitive and suits an impressive range of abilities and skiing styles. Yet there were two aspects of this design that I noticed (I don’t see these as faults at all, simply characteristics of the Scimitar): The ski wasn’t quite as energetic through carves as a ski with traditional camber might be, and its flat underfoot profile was not the most stable at high speed through tough, chopped conditions. The chop/crud performance was not horrible by any means, and really wasn’t much of a surprise considering the ski’s design—it just requires that an expert skier expect some of that “swimming” feeling when hauling through inconsistent or cut up conditions. (I don’t think an intermediate skier would even notice it.)

I thought those two slight tradeoffs with the Scimitar were relatively small prices to pay for the ski’s impressive versatility, and its still a great ski, well suited for a lot of people.  Still, I was curious to see if the Soul Rider could offer some of the same nimble, and playful qualities of the Scimitar while maintaining more energy for carving and pop for jibbing around the mountain. So far, I’m inclined to think it does. (OK, extended preface over. On to the data.)

Groomers

My time on the Soul Rider has been primarily on groomers. In Las Leñas, this meant very soft, spring slush conditions off the Vulcano lift. Jason and I had the the ski mounted at +3 from Nordica’s classic/traditional mount, which was -4cm from true center. There is no Nordica “factory” or “team” line (at least on the 11/12 Soul Rider we tested, which returns unchanged for 12/13). This is the mount point that I chose initially, and after experimenting with the -7 traditional mount I think this is where I would keep it (more on this in a bit).

While I haven’t been able to take the ski into any steeps like Jason did, I do feel I have a very good sense of how this ski does on groomers and in bumpy, wet slush, and can second much of what he has already said.

The first thing that struck me about the Soul Rider was just how quick it was edge to edge. Even in very soft, warm conditions where you might actually expect a lighter ski to get bogged down, tipping the skis over and getting them to bite into a carved turn was a breeze. As Jason mentioned, the Soul Rider sports a 18.5m sidecut radius, which seemed to work very well with a flex profile that struck me as even and moderate—certainly not soft, but not stiff or medium/stiff, either.

While making quick carves, nothing about the edge hold felt insufficient or worrisome on the soft groomed runs. I was able to really bend and work the ski through each carved turn even on fairly low-angle terrain. The snow in Las Leñas wasn’t the slightly firm, tacky corduroy ideal for really driving a ski through a carve, but I was still able to get a nice, fun snap from the Soul Rider. In this respect, the ski did seem a little more energetic than the Scimitar, which sacrifices some pop for ridiculously easy turn initiation, even at 5 mph.

Since Las Leñas I’ve had the chance to get the Soul Rider on some colder, faster groomers in Colorado. The ski does have some early rise in the tail, but I can’t say I’ve noticed any subsequent lack of stability while on edge as long as the snow is reasonably soft – with any amount of soft snow, the camber underfoot feels sufficient. In very icy, bulletproof conditions, the ski’s shorter effective edge becomes much more noticeable and carving confidently can be difficult, however controlled skidded turns are still impressively stable and predictable. (For these reasons I would not recommend the Soul Rider as an all-mountain carver to someone on the East Coast.)

The Soul Rider’s rocker profile in the tip and tail is relatively conservative, with a decently deep rocker line but only a small amount of splay. The skis remained nice and stable while making long, fast, but controlled smeary turns, and were able to plane nicely over small ridges and soft, consolidated piles of slush. I was a little surprised by how damp the Soul Rider was at higher speeds, especially given the conditions, its 97mm width, and a flex profile that seemed very forgiving initially.

Nordica Soul Rider Rocker Profile, Blister Gear Review
Nordica Soul Rider – Rocker Profile

The skis flex feels on the softer side, but it never felt flimsy, weak, or chattery to me (on edge, or in a skidded turn), as long as I maintained a light, more upright stance.

Like Jason, I also noticed that “breaking the tails loose at speed still didn’t offer the most comforting ride.” At -4 a light, more centered stance provides the best feel and feedback from the ski, but it is possible to overpower the shovels and wash the tails out after pitching the skis hard sideways to scrub speed. Also, the ski seems to lose some edge stability in long-radius carves, likely because of the more aggressive sidecut that makes it so fun at slower speeds. However, this isn’t quite the case with the ski mounted farther back at a traditional -6 or -7 cm. There the Soul Rider is more stable through faster turns in soft, consolidated snow, but the stability difference isn’t so dramatic that I would chose to mount the ski there. Personally I’d rather maintain a more balanced feel in the air and better switch carving performance (which, so far, I think Soul Rider can do well at -4).

At slower speeds, my stance/posture seemed less important, and the Soul Rider didn’t demand much in making slow, smeared turns in the soft slush. I wouldn’t say it felt quite as surfy as the Scimitar, but was still very intuitive and precise. Given how easy the ski is to maneuver and its forgiving but snappy flex, I’m expecting it to be a lot of fun in moguls (which either Jason or I will speak to in the Update)

For a do-it-all all-mountain ski that’s very easy to ski and work around at low speeds, the Soul Rider does just fine during slightly more aggressive, fast skiing, even at a progressive mount point. (Across the board, when not on edge the Soul Rider feels less “swimmy” than I found the Scimitar to be running bases flat or skidding through a turn in chop.) Advanced/expert skiers will just have to get used to feathering their speed and working with the skis’ softer flex and playful feel, rather than standing on them, expecting a stiffer flex that will bust through crud or firmer piles of snow at a high edge angle.

26 comments on “2020-2021 Nordica Soul Rider”

    • Hey Smarty,

      The Scimitar and Bridge are practically identical skis. I’ve only skied the Bridge in a 179, not the more comparable 187, but in my experience they perform very similarly. They both feature the a subtle, full reverse camber profile, and have nearly the same dimensions (The Scimitar is 3mm wider underfoot). So, most everything I’ve said about how the Soul Rider compared to the Scimitar, I feel comfortable saying relative to the Bridge. Thanks to its traditional camber, the Soul Rider feels a little more stable running through uneven snow/chop bases flat or not at a very high edge angle, and it it seems to have a little more pop and energy (especially when carved aggressively). Hope this helps!

      Will

  1. How would you compare the bonafide to the soul rider. Obviously one is more charger and one is more jibbery. But in terms of pure skiing and versatility. Which would you guys rather be on and why?

    • Matt,
      First consider that I have only spent one day on the Soul Rider, so I am a little gun shy to say just how great it is at everything. I spent more time on the 187cm Bonafide, and comparing the two I would personally rather be on the Soul Rider.

      The Bonafide is a great ski that prefers to carve down pretty much everything you throw at it. It is very torsionally stiff, damp, and stable due to its (hefty) twin metal laminate construction, and offers a straight forward traditional/directional feel. While I had some fun on the Bonafide, I personally prefer skis that are lighter and offer a more dynamic ride, much like the Soul Rider.

      The Soul Rider obviously is more freestyle oriented, and is much more balanced in flex and shape. I like skis that allow me to rip around the mountain AND play around with presses, kickers, drops, etc, and this is what I consider to be versatility.

      If you define a versatile ski as one that feels cool, calm, and collected nearly all of the time, the Bonafide is more apt to be that ski. If you’re more like me and consider versatility to mean you can take it from steep technical lines, to groomers, and to the terrain park, the Soul Rider takes it between these two.

  2. This ski is now on my radar, and is a serious front runner for my all mountain ski for this year. The 4FRNT Cody is my other top option, but there is minimal info on this ski yet. How about it, any words of advice on the Cody?

    My main goal is to have a ski that can huck cliffs on to hardpack (therefore smaller cliffs), carve hard, and be poppy, playful and buttery ski all at once. The cody seems like it may be this ski, and the Soul Rider seems like it may be this ski as well, after reading Jason and Wills’ review!

    • Though my time on the Soul Rider is significantly less than that on the SFB, I found the Soul Rider to be slightly more damp feeling, and a bit more torsionally rigid. I also found the Soul Rider to be stiffer throughout.
      As much as I love the SFB, for an east coast one ski quiver I’d probably go with the narrower, slightly more hard snow oriented Soul Rider.

    • Hi Tarek,

      I have not had the chance to ski the El Paco. Effectively it is simply a narrower Soul Rider (at 87mm underfoot with the same sort of rocker/camber profile). I would guess that the El Paco is a little lighter and quicker feeling from edge to edge on hard snow, more suited for park/rail riding, will get kicked around more in uneven conditions and chop, and won’t float as well in soft snow. Of course, these are only assumptions I’m making. We’ll be sure to make more detailed comparisons if we get on the El Paco this season. Cheers!

      Will

  3. Ski Magazine (November 2012) Testers “found performance they could love at prices they could live with” and the Soul Rider was on their list. At $799 MSRP it was considered a “Value Ski”–of course we won’t actually pay the MRSP so it is even a better priced value. Testers thought “it could hold its own against the big guns of the full-price category” Looks like it is a great ski to have in your quiver!

  4. Hi There,

    I’m looking at buying these skis but I’m new to the concept of adjusting to rocker (which from what I understand makes the ski “shorter”) based on effective edge.
    I’m 5’11” and weigh about 150 lbs. I’m looking at the 185’s right now because I do like to ski pretty hard. Is this the right ski for me or is the 177 better suited?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Paul,

      You and Coach Krinkle (who has replied below) are both right that the rocker in the ski reduces it’s effective edge, which makes a 185cm ski a little shorter than it actually is. All in all, the Soul Rider is a very intuitive, cooperative ski, especially on the feet of an advanced skier or someone who likes to ski hard like you do. I think the 185 will suit you well. I can’t imagine you would feel it is too much ski (I’d be a lot less surprised to hear that you wanted more stability out of the 177). Hope this helps,

      Will

  5. Paul,
    Not enough information to tell you the right length. Add on: What you like to ski most–grommers, chutes, crud, powder, moguls, all of above? Plus, what type of boot are you in right now–flex, skier level.?

    The Soul Rider has an Early Rise camRock which pulls the traditional contact point of the tip back about 25% creating increased flotation, velocity and maneuverability in soft snow and all other conditions. If you like short and medium radius turns–go shorter. If you like eye watering GS and Super G turns, go longer. If you like moguls, chute skiing and park/pipe skiing–go shorter. If you want all around–either will do but shorter always creates smiles!

  6. Thanks so much for the help both Will and Coach Krinke!

    I really do appreciate the feedback and advice.

    While trying to find an answer to both of your follow up thoughts, I find that I do like to do it all. I really do enjoy charging hard on some days carving GS type turns, but I also like to dabble in the park with jumps as well as making quick turns in the bumps or on steep chutes.

    Although I don’t think the 185 would be too much ski, I might be giving up a bit of the playfulness I tend to look for as well.

  7. I guess I forgot one point above. I’m an advanced skier but fairly light. I’m in Dalbello Voodo’s right now. I find it’s progressive flex suits my weight and freestyle ability.

    And although I will be taking these skis in powder and big mountain, I will be spending about half my time on groomers.

  8. Hi,
    Thanks a lot the good reviews. I’m surprised that noboday asked, but how does it compare to Nordica’s Enforcer Ti? They share almost the same shape, but the construction is different if I got it right?
    Thanks in advance,
    Jerry

    • Hey Jerry,

      The Enforcer and Soul Rider are very similar, though the former is a little more traditional with only slight rocker in the tip and a flat tail (unlike the Soul Rider’s twin, rockererd tail). I’d really like to get on the Enforcer myself for a comparison. I’d expect it to be more stable on hardpack and even more energetic through a carve. It might be a great option for people who aren’t looking to ride switch, or just like the feel of a more standard tail from a more forward stance. Thanks for the note!

      Will

  9. Hi,

    What size of Marker Jester did you use with the Soul Rider, 90mm or 110mm. Would you recommend buying a schizo binding to be able to adjust position on ski easily.

    Fabrice

    • Hi Fabrice,

      With a little bending, you’ll be able to use a 90mm brake on the Soul Rider without a problem (you could also use a 110 brake if you had to). The schizo binding does work very well and would be great on the ski if you do want to have the option to play with the mount point.

      WB

  10. Hi,

    what size do You suggest for me (I’m 6.1 ft and my weight is 194 lbs), I’m a little more than an intermediate skier.
    What do You think about the Marker Tour (12) on this ski?
    Thanks.
    Max.

    • Hey Max,

      The 185 will suit you well. I worry that a shorter version could start to feel to short in another season or two as you progress. The 185cm ski is still quite easy to direct and skid around on, but will still feel adequate on down the road.

      If you’re looking to do some touring, then yes, the Marker Tour 12 would certainly be a nice pairing.

      Best,

      Will

  11. Wondering if you had any thoughts on these vs 4FRNT Codys as an east coast all mountain twin? You mention planning to review them above, but I don’t see such a review.

    • Hey Comet Jo,

      We’re still working to get our hands on a pair of Codys (called the Gaucho for the 14/15 season). I’ll be sure to let you know when we get time on the ski. As for the Soul Rider as an East Coast all-mountain ski, it would be great for someone looking for a more forgiving, playful ski that could be taken in the park and would have a nice, looser feel in soft snow. But if you’re looking for something to bite into true ice/hardpack, then I’d look for a more traditional ski with a bit more burl like the Rossi Experience 88/98 or Volkl Mantra.

      Thanks,
      Will

  12. Hi,

    I’m looking for a second “play” ski, for bumps, trees, etc. I’m thinking about the 15-16 Soul Rider or the 15-16 Sir Francis Bacon –– any advice on how these skis compare and how they’d work for this purpose?

    I’m an aggressive, strong skier, but am only 5′ 9″ & 160 lbs. I currently ski a pair of 177 Volkl RTM 84s.

    Thanks!
    Jason

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